Many who visit the Quinault Rain Forest regions of Olympic National Park and Forest say it feels prehistoric, but there is nothing outdated about the region. Here, where elk wander through chest deep ferns and towering trees are weighed down with rain-saturated mosses, adventure and wilderness inspiration can be found around every corner. Full of pristine waterfalls, salmon- and trout-filled lakes and endless wonders, a trip to the Olympic Peninsula’s wettest regions rewards outdoor enthusiasts with a lifetime of experiences.
As you enter the rain forest, a million shades of green greet you, some bright from the daylight, others dark from the shade of the huge maple, cedar and fir trees. The Quinault combines rugged, wilderness beauty with a breathtaking lodge, a myriad of activities and some of the best hiking, kayaking and exploring in the world. Sure, it averages nearly 11 feet of rain a year, but that rain makes it beautiful, clean and ridiculously green. The Quinault Rain Forest is a wilderness playground of stunning sights and the perfect destination for your day, weekend or month-long getaway.
Classic Hikes in The Quinault Rain Forest
The Quinault Rain Forest is home to some of the most underrated hiking destinations in the entire country. It may sound like hyperbole, but it is true. Hikes leading to remote peaks, paths passing by breathtaking waterfalls, trails weaving through enormous old-growth forests and some of the best backcountry adventures, all of this and more awaits you while hiking the Quinault.
Your best introduction to hiking in the Quinault Rain Forest can be found along the Maple Glade Trail on the North Shore Road or at the Quinault Rain forest Nature Trail system near the Lake Quinault Lodge. Both of these family-friendly, well-marked trails will leave you in awe at the stunning forests, gorgeous water features and scenic wonders.
Enticed to explore deeper into the rain forest, the Graves Creek to Pony Bridge Trail is another jaw-dropping trek. Walking the five-mile round trip trek to Pony Bridge, you’ll enjoy towering old-growth trees and a picturesque wooden bridge that spans across a narrow box canyon, above the Quinault River. Those craving an unrivaled view from above the rain forest should make their way up and to the summit of Colonel Bob Peak. Here, a stunning panorama awaits, showing off nearly the entire Olympic Peninsula.
Backpackers have a handful of options in the region as well. The classic trip is to go to the Enchanted Valley, where waterfalls and rain forest wonders await. An overlooked trip is to head up the North Fork to the Skyline Trail, where high alpine bliss and miles of incredible ridgeline hiking can be found.
Boating and Paddleboarding in The Quinault Rain Forest
Canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are a great way to explore the pristine waters. Boats can be rented on the Lake Quinault Lodge grounds from Memorial Day until September 1. For those with their own boats, your boat will have to be inspected and you will need to purchase a tribal permit for the boat. you’ll find two boat launches you can use, one at Falls Creek and one at the Willaby Campground.
Expert kayakers who are willing to hike into the backcountry will enjoy challenging waters heading downstream from Pony Bridge. You’ll have Class IV-V waters along this three-mile route, with a mandatory portage at Dolly Falls. For those who enjoy calmer waters, a more popular launching area can be found near the end of the North Shore Road at the bridge, giving you Class II-III waters.
Drive The Quinault Loop
The Lake Quinault Loop is one of the state’s most breathtaking scenic drives, dazzling everyone in the car any month of the year. From visiting the World’s Largest Spruce Tree and exploring the beauty of Merriman Falls, to enjoying the elk near the Kestner Cabin and picnicking along the lake at July Creek, there are no wrong choices while driving around Quinault.
The best place to start is at the Lake Quinault Lodge. Originally built in 1926, in the same style as the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone, the two-story, V-shaped structure is rumored to be the location where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to support the creation of Olympic National Park. Watch for animals, enjoy moss draped trees, see towering forests and enjoy the babbling brooks and numerous roadside waterfalls found along this short, 34-mile loop drive. We have outlined ten destinations to explore along the paved and dirt roads that circle Lake Quinault, promising to give you a day’s worth of beautiful and stunning must-stop destinations. For an added bonus, drive out to Graves Creek and into Olympic National Park. Along this out and back gravel road, you’ll be surrounded by unrivaled wilderness, huge trees dripping in moss, and endless sights of ferns.
Fishing and Mushrooms in the Quinault Rain Forest
Some of the best salmon fishing in the contiguous United States can be found along the Quinault River, specifically the 33 miles of the river that run from the lake to the Pacific Ocean. However, the only way to fish these waters is to sign up with a Quinault tribal guide. If you have always wanted to catch a huge salmon, the Quinault River Inn can help you find someone to take you out, provided it is salmon season. If you’d rather fish on your own in the upper reaches of the Quinault River, you’ll need to make sure you follow the rules and regulations of fishing in Olympic National Park, including purchasing a tribal fishing permit for trout.
Mushroom lovers will be in heaven in the Quinault region. In October, the Lake Quinault Lodge holds its annual Mushroom Festival, bringing in the best foragers of the region to share tips, recipes and more. If you’d rather go out into Olympic National Forest and find your own fantastically flavorful fungi, read up on the rules to do so on their website. The good news here is that as long as you take the appropriate amount for personal use, no permit is needed!
The Best Places to Stay in the Quinault Rain Forest
For the ultimate vacation lodging in the Quinault Rain forest, look no farther than the Lake Quinault Lodge. Sitting right along the banks of the lake, this historic and iconic wooden lodge has served everyone, from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to dirt-covered hikers and everyone in between.
Across the lake from the Lodge, the Lochaerie Resort lets you stay in rustic, 1920s cabins, granting quick access to some of the most-wild regions of the rain forest.
There are even three rentable properties right along the lake from Lake Quinault Vacation Homes.
If you’d rather stay outdoors, the Quinault area offers a handful of camping options, some perfect for RVs, others ideal for tent campers. Local favorites include Graves Creek Campground and the Falls Creek Campground. The Falls Creek Campground in Olympic National Forest is close to the historic lodge, plenty of dining options, family-friendly hiking trails, and all sorts of amenities that should make any level of camper feel at ease. Farther west and deeper into the rain forest, Olympic National Park’s Graves Creek Campground is for those hoping for something a bit wilder. Surrounded by towering trees and within walking distance to world-class hiking trails, it is hard to find a more wonderful rain forest campground than this.
Where to Eat in the Quinault Rain Forest
If you weren’t able to catch or forage for your dinner, don’t worry! Along South Shore Road of Lake Quinault, a handful of restaurants will satiate the hungriest of appetites. If you want to dine where a president ate, head to the Roosevelt Dining Room at the Lake Quinault Lodge. Here you can feast upon seafood or other regional fares. Also serving up incredible dishes is the Salmon House Restaurant right along the lakeshore. This might just be Lake Quinault’s most-popular place to eat. Away from the lake and right next to Highway 101, Dino’s Pizza and Grill serves up the tasty classics, made quick and always mouthwatering. There is also a small grocery store and a small grill right near the lodge called the Quinault Mercantile. This is a perfect spot for last-minute snacks and drinks, as well as a quick bite to eat.